The Sierra Mountain Cemetery in Truckee was decorated with 109 United States flags Monday in honor of the 109 veterans of the Armed Forces buried there.
The occasion marked the 136th Memorial Day, the national holiday dedicated to remembering past veterans of war and military service.
The Truckee Veterans of Foreign Wars, Levon Joseph Post 2675 and the Tahoe-Truckee Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol decorated the veteran gravesites and organized the service, which included speeches by Truckee Mayor Don McCormack and Tony DeSantis, a captain with the CAP.
The service drew dozens of Truckee residents and veterans from each branch of the military in what some claim was the largest Memorial Day gathering in Truckee.
“I was pretty impressed with the turnout,” said Dennis Cook, Truckee’s honorary town constable. “Year after year it keeps growing.”
In the last several weeks the CAP and the VFW have worked with cemetery trustees to identify the veterans buried in the Truckee cemetery.
Don Colclough, a trustee of the cemetery, said fellow trustee Bill Satmary made the map that described which graves are veterans.
Not all of the veteran gravestones bear military markings, said Colclough.
Satmary worked with residents and friends of the deceased to determine the proper military recognition.
Following his speech, Mayor McCormack and Gary Thomas, commander of the VFW post, dedicated a buddy poppy wreath in honor of the fallen veterans.
The tradition of the poppy wreath dates back to a WWI battle in Ypres, Belgium that lasted for 17 days and left 30,000 dead, explained Thomas Monday.
“Poppies grew in the field afterward,” he said. The field was later referred to as Flander’s Field.
Following the dedication Capt. DeSantis told one version of the discovery of “Taps,” the song performed by the military for memorial occasions and to signal the end of day.
According to the story, during the Civil War a Union Army soldier decided to crawl out into a battlefield one night to retrieve a man who was groaning from injuries.
After the soldier pulled the wounded man back to safety he realized both that the wounded man had died, that he was a Confederate Army soldier, and that the individual was the soldier’s son, said Capt. DeSantis.
The deceased was a writer of music, and in his pocket was a song he had written. The man’s father removed the notes and selected a bugler to play the song during his son’s burial ceremony. The song, according to the legend, became “Taps.”
Another version, accepted by historians at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, is that Union General Daniel Butterfield wrote the tune with the help of a bugler from the Union Army on the Potomac in July of 1862.
Up to the Civil War, the infantry call for “lights out” was Silas Casey’s “Tactics,” which had been borrowed from the French.
“Taps” was written on the back of an envelope, and was quickly incorporated by both the Union and Confederate Armies.
The song was played Monday by Cadet 2nd Lt. Cameron Bartolini.
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